Make room in the pantry for ajvar

Cevapi with ajvar

Sometimes an ingredient or food product that was once only locally or regionally popular sweeps across the culinary world, like pimentón did a few years back. The Telegraph reports that a British chef is aiming to create a new such craze with a Balkan roasted pepper and aubergine relish called ajvar. Ajvar has been a pantry staple in Macedonia and surrounding areas since the time of Alexander the Great. Now Phillip Evans is bringing his own version of the relish (called "aivar" for ease of pronounciation) to the world, starting with the U.K., where it is now available in over 200 Waitrose locations. It's also available in Australia, Belgium, and Dubai.

Ajvar is a traditional food where family recipes can date back for generations. "Everyone's auntie makes the best variety," Evans says. "People are so passionate about the stuff here [in Macedonia]." After discovering ajvar, Evans started a food company called Pelagonia, the ancient name for Macedonia, to manufacture the relish and other Macedonian products. He realized that "there was all this quality food from the region that was completely unknown to foreign markets."

While rival ajvar producers exist, Evans is aiming for the premium end of the market. "Podravka [a Croatian purveyor of ajvar] only sells to the Balkan diaspora. We're going for the international middle-class foodie," he says. Now that he's conquered the U.K., Chef Evans is eyeing Asia as the next area of expansion. There is no word on whether he plans to bring the product to the U.S.

For those who don't have access to the Pelagonia product line, the EYB Library has a handful of recipes for DIY ajvar.

Photo of Cevapi with ajvar from Jamie Oliver Magazine in the EYB Library

5 Comments

  • dmihic  on  7/11/2014 at 10:19 AM

    I guess this guy has never been to Trader Joe's. here in Canada, you can find many producers of ajvar but the best still come from the former Yugoslavia. In fact, all of the former Yugoslavia claims ownership over the product.

  • susan g  on  7/12/2014 at 6:50 PM

    I discovered ajvar a few years ago, at a chain (New England? East Coast?) called Ocean State Job Lot. Delicious on sandwiches, reduces the 'not enough veggies' guilt. With these retailers, it's firmly in the mainstream.

  • RuthGo  on  7/13/2014 at 11:23 AM

    My neighborhood in Brooklyn has a ton of Uzbeks, Turks, Russians, Ukrainians, etc so my produce/grocery store has about 10 different brands of ajvar. I keep a jar in my fridge all the time.

  • sir_ken_g  on  7/14/2014 at 2:05 PM

    http://maisoncupcake.com/herceg-novi-ajvar/ or make your own

  • Therese  on  7/14/2014 at 6:57 PM

    Suggestions for use please? I have a jar ... And yes it's not rare to find here in Oz

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